Photographer Michella Bredahl Takes Back Her Safe Spaces

Welcome to Ways of Seeing, an interview series that highlights outstanding talent in photography and film—the people behind the camera whose work you should be watching. In this week’s edition, senior content editor Michael Beckert chats with the Danish photographer Michella Bredahl about her new book, Love Me Again.

In your own words, what is this project about?

I think the work is about so many things, including my childhood. I grew up in the ’90s, and that was when my mom gave me a camera. It became a tool for me. I learned to express myself through images. When I met Sarah and Lewis from Loose Joints Publishing about a year ago, the house started looking through my archive. I’ve been photographing for so many years and I’ve never published anything before, but I would use Instagram to share my work as I went along. We started looking through the work and the conversations we had about the photographs all revolved around me looking at my friends, women, girls, examining femininity through my generation.

I think the work is about stepping into domestic spaces where I didn’t feel safe when I was younger. Now, I am approaching all these spaces again with friends, and also with people I don’t know, revisiting them to shoot. And then we create new images.

The pictures [in the book] were taken over a decade. So it’s also about change, and how my approach has changed. I feel you can tell when you look at the work that there’s this sense of, I don’t know what I’m doing. But over the years you see I’ve developed a language and that I had an intention when I started.

I like that idea of revisiting old spaces that you maybe didn’t have a great experience in, and reclaiming them by making art in them.

When I create, it has the power to slowly minimize the image that I had that wasn’t beautiful. I’m replacing that old image with new memories. The photography that I really love, is there kind where I can feel time. A photo is a moment you can never go back to, and I think that’s why photography hits us years later, when we look back at photo albums.

When I look at your work, the word “truth” comes to mind. There’s just a level of quality to your imaging, but also to the scenes you’ve chosen to create.

Thank you. I am so inspired by so many photographers. I love Lise Sarfati. I love Philip-Lorca Dicorcia. I look at their work and then I’m like, Wow—I’m so far away from that. But I think that was a generation of photographers that had to invest a lot of time, because they were shooting analogs. This new generation, we’re not investing as much time.

I also think the economy now just doesn’t allow younger artists to spend as much time creating their work.

It’s true. As an artist, it’s so expensive to live, so you have to compromise a lot more. Sometimes you have older artists criticizing the new generation—like I kind of just did—but it’s so unfair, because it’s just so hard.

Can you tell me more about how you got into photography? I read that it was through modeling.

I was 14, and I got a job in a video store. A lady came into the store and I could tell she was looking at me. When I finished my shift and left the store, she stopped me and asked me if I’d ever considered modeling. I got signed with an agency.

But something happened really quick: I felt beautiful when I started modeling, then I lost that. To this day, I blame a lot of the adults around me who used damaging, abusive language that made me not like that world. But I met some people who didn’t make me feel like that, so they also made me want to stay.

One of those people was my friend who was an art photographer; he worked in fashion too. He would invite me to his place and he had all these photography books. One day, he showed me this book by Diane Arbus. I’d never seen it before, and I didn’t know her at the time. But I was blown away by the cover, an image of twins. I was 20 years old at the time, and I didn’t know so much about art. My friend told me, “You should go photograph people on the street.” And then for my birthday, he got me a Pentax analog camera as a surprise.

What’s the oldest photograph in this book?

The oldest is from 11 years ago, so 2012. It’s a photo of the couple—the woman is pregnant and they’re kissing.

Photograph from photographer Michella Bredahl’s new book, Love Me Again, available via Loose Joints.

What’s the story behind this image?

This was a friend I met in art school while I was there, around 21 years old. I took painting classes, and we had a booth next to each other. We became best friends. After art school, I went to a photography school. I bought a medium format camera, and I think this might be one of the first times I shot with it. This is a really special picture for me because when the book came out, my friend told me she was pregnant again.

Do you ever walk away from a shoot feeling like you didn’t get a good picture? How do you react when that happens?

I try not to think like that when I photograph, I think the act of photographing is what’s important. If a picture is good or bad- it’s not really what matters at first hand. They change over time anyway. It’s the act of photographing that matters.

Which photograph from the book did you take most recently?

The one with the woman and the baby, from my friend’s 30th birthday. She rented an apartment in Paris, and that’s why you see the balloons, Her apartment was beautiful, so the first thing I said was, “Oh, Klara, we should photograph you. This is crazy. Let’s do a shoot.” We were laughing about it because I had photographed her for seven years [prior to that]. But this time, I came with two assistants. I had lights, I had food for everyone. She was joking, like, “You really stepped it up. Last time, I was cooking for you and you were sleeping on my couch and I never saw the pictures.”

Photograph from photographer Michella Bredahl’s new book, Love Me Again, available via Loose Joints.

How did you choose the cover of the book?

I chose that piece because it feels the most like me, like a self-portrait. I look at that photograph and feel really close to something honest, pure, and real. The pictures in the book of reclining women are the ones that also feel the most like me, and are the closest to the reason why I photograph. I grew up with my mom, and when I was young, she wasn’t well. So I would always see her lying down in her bed. And then I would go to these [museum] exhibitions and I would see the reclining woman painted by men. They were both gorgeous, beautiful. It’s all a product of what I grew up with—all these old paintings, and that image I had of my mom.

Photograph from photographer Michella Bredahl’s new book, Love Me Again, available via Loose Joints.

What are you most proud of so far on your journey as an artist?

I remember living outside of Copenhagen with my mom and my sister, where I didn’t have access to art. My mom didn’t even have a newspaper. So I’m proud that I somehow found my own way into the world. I was also really proud when I got into The National Film School of Denmark. I still can’t believe it—they only take six new students every second year. That was really the first time I felt like, I belong here. That changed things for me because I felt good, so I could actually start working. I could breathe. And it’s the same with the book: I feel like I created a space for people that I feel good with.

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